CHIPPENHAM basketballer Deane Williams is hoping to make his mark against some of the best youngsters in Europe when he plays for England U18s at the European U18 Championships in Turkey next week.
The 17-year-old, who plays for Bristol Academy Flyers and is part of South Gloucestershire and Stroud College’s basketball academy, is in a 12-strong England squad for the championships in Konya, to take on France, Croatia and Lithuania.
The 6ft 7in power forward earned his call-up after attending a host of trials last season, culminating in a final selection session at Ipswich College earlier this month.
“The trials basically went on all the way from the beginning of last season and the number kept getting cut down until there were 12 left,” said Williams, who broke Sheldon School’s high jump record in 2012.
“I’ve been picked for England before but this is a really big competition and I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be really tough but I can’t wait to play out there.”
Williams could have found himself more use to controlling a ball with his feet rather than his hands after spending a season at Southampton FC’s satellite academy in Bath from the age of 15.
But having already made a handful of appearances for the Flyers’ men’s first team, who will next season play in the British Basketball League (BBL), the top tier of the game in this country, he decided his talents were more suited to the court.
NBA fan Williams, who counts Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant as his favourite player, said: “I got scouted playing for Chippenham Town and spent a year at Southampton but I was always getting penalised for my size – basketball is a much more physical sport.
“I’m a power forward. I’m not the smallest player but I’m not the biggest either and my job is to be there for a lot of the rebounds.
“I watch the NBA all the time and I’m a massive fan of OKC Thunder and Kevin Durant – I empathise with him a lot because he’s a big guy but he’s really skilful as well.”
Williams, who is currently studying a BTEC National Diploma in Sport, is coached by Great Britain U20 assistant coach Andreas Kapoulas and Great Britain U16 assistant Guy Coles at Bristol.
He added: “One of my coaches did have an e-mail once from a college in Florida saying that they might be interested in me – that would be a dream come true.
“Our academy team went 33-1 last season and the plan is to try to break into the first team even more next year, especially because we’ll be playing in the BBL.”
FOR MORE SPORTS NEWS, REPORTS & PICTURES SEE THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @gazsport